Medicare is a vitally important source of health insurance for millions of Americans 65 year of age and older or on disability. The new privatized benefit options for Medicare Advantage and Part D for prescriptions have presented a great challenge for people with Medicare. Never before have they had to select from so many different plans, offering so many different options and levels of coverage. All of these choices, plus the intricate rules and regulations of all parts to Medicare is why understanding the basics about Medicare is key to making informed decisions about ones health coverage.
Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP)
Billions of federal dollars are lost annually due to health care fraud, error and abuse. Since 1997, the Administration on Aging (AoA) has funded Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) projects to recruit and train retired professionals and other senior citizens about how to recognize and report instances or patterns of health care fraud.
The SMP program empowers seniors through increased awareness and understanding of healthcare programs. This knowledge helps seniors to protect themselves from the economic and health-related consequences of Medicare and Medicaid fraud, error and abuse.
Volunteers are always needed with this program; if you are interested in being trained to help your peers protect their Medicare, please contact SMP at
1-800-239-3507 or 205-333-2990. You can also visit them online at: www.alabamasmp.gov
State Health Insurance & Assistance Program (SHIP)
The Area Agency on Aging administers the State Health Insurance and Assistance Program (SHIP) for West Alabama. SHIP is funded by CMS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, through the Alabama Department of Senior Services. The program provides free, objective and impartial advice on Medicare benefits.
Testimonials from beneficiaries who sought help from SHIP:
"The SHIP counselor explained everything so thoroughly that I was able to easily understand the benefit and it was nice to have someone to do that with in person." - a client from Gordo
"You helped make a very confusing analysis of different plans clear! Taking care of Dad is a huge responsibility and I'm thankful for people like you to help guide me." - a client from Vernon
"Before I spoke with SHIP I did not know what to do, I was desperate for help. I was going in circles trying to understand Part D. My wife will be 65 this fall and we will be back for your help then." -a client from Northport
The State Health Insurance and Assistance Program is available in West Alabama to help Medicare beneficiaries sort through their options for FREE. SHIP can assist someone with understanding their Medicare benefit, plan comparisions, enrollment, Medicare Savings Programs (QMB/SLMB), Medigap/secondary coverage, long-term care insurance, and more.
While there is no local Medicare office, the SHIP program ensures a local resource is available for one on one counseling in exploring ones options. Volunteers are always needed with this program. If you are interested in being trained to help your peers understand their Medicare options, please contact SHIP.
Enrollment events are conducted during each Annual Election Period (AEP), which runs October 15 - December 7.
To make an appointment for AEP or to learn more about volunteer opportunities, call the Area Agency on Aging at 205-333-2990. Individuals outside Tuscaloosa County may call toll-free, 1-800-243-5463.